This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I played a very bad hand very well. There's a distinction"
11980 members | you are not logged in | 19 October 2018


March 22 2010

"The meaning of Buffy" - an essay on relationships in Buffy. Marguerite Krause argues that relationships are the centre of Buffy - and that the Willow/Tara relationship was the ultimate relationship, the only one that didn't fail.


this essay was one of my favorites from that book. so glad it's been posted.
"Some fans love imagining that a mature, romantic relationship could develop between Buffy and Giles (or has already happened, hidden in subtext and “between the lines” of the aired episodes)." Oh my GAWD. Who are these twisted souls? Let's keep our "subtexts" to ourselves, shall we? *resists the urge to projectile vomit all over the computer screen for the nth time*.
Ha, Buffy/Giles is vanilla compared to a large amount of Buffy fics.
@ Leaf: Really? Saints preserve us! I'll be sure to stay far away then.
@Jonnathan, this was in season 6:

Buffy: But ... when I kissed you ... you know I was thinking about Giles, right?
Spike: You know, I always wondered about you two.

But I agree, not a nice thought.
The part about Buffy/Giles was actually the only part that bothered me about the essay (because I am one of those apparently twisted souls who thinks they'd be great together).

But, back to the topic at hand: I loved the essay; it's one of the best ones I've read on Smart Pop so far. I think it really touches on the centre of what Buffy is and what made it so special for all of us.

[ edited by Mierke on 2010-03-22 21:58 ]
I can't open the site for some reason, so I can't comment on the essay itself, but I will comment on the headline: Willow and Tara did fail, and not in a trivial way. Willow deflects Tara's concerns about her magic use with manipulation and cruelty. Willow wipes Tara's memory (a huge, huge violation) not once but twice--the second time after Tara had compared what Willow did to Glory's mindsuck. Tara came back to Willow in "Entropy" stating that they hadn't worked through all their issues. And after Tara's death, sure enough, Willow's first reaction is to leave Tara's body behind for (eventually) Dawn to find (Dawn: "I don't want to leave her") to go get revenge, which Tara would not have wanted.

I love Willow, incidentally, but I love the flawed character in the show, not someone who was a perfect partner in a relationship.
WilliamTheB: Reading the essay will surely alleviate some of your doubts about the perfection of the relationship (at least, it did for me, because my initial reaction was the same as yours). She's not saying the relationship was flawless, she's saying the relationship was 'one of the highest standards of love'.

"This doesn’t mean that Tara and Willow’s relationship was completely lacking in conflict or challenges. However, although they occasionally disagreed with or disappointed one another, they both knew how to give and accept apologies. Most important of all, they knew how to forgive."
I disagree about the Willow/Tara relationship. In a lot of ways, it was doomed from the beginning. And while we get to see the first moments of that relationship repairing itself, Willow's subsequent decisions show that she simply wasn't ready for it. Both characters were growing in very different ways. I think this downplays the very fundamental conflicts in the relationship. I doubt, in the end, that either Willow or Tara would have found long-term happiness in the relationship. It went far beyond occasional disagreement or disappointment.

Of course, we'll never know.
ern: I think Willow post-reeducation with the coven would have been able to find permanent happiness with Tara had the ash-blonde been restored to her. Of course in my ficverse they're working on their second kid this year so I'm prejudiced.

WilliamtheB Mierke: I agree they weren't perfect. But i still see them as the *most* (ie. best available approxiamtion to) perfect match I've seen on the screen. (And I go back to when Rob and Laura were on first-run episodes.) Again I'm prejudiced because in spring of 2001 I *needed* to see a good example of love, wherever I could get one.
I guess to me, what Willow did *to Tara* (the mindwipe[s]) was one of the worst things anyone on the show did to their partner, in any romantic pairing. Willow and Tara absolutely loved one another, but the betrayal was a very extreme form of abuse, and so I can't see them as being close to perfect. The only things I can think of that are comparable (or worse) for the show's major couples are Anya trying to kill Xander in "Entropy," Buffy and Spike's abuse of each other, and Angel's actions without a soul. (Things like cheating, ignoring one's partner, lying to them, abandoning them etc. seem like much lesser problems.) I absolutely agree with ern--the episodes following Tara's death seemed to me to prove that Tara was wrong to go back to Willow and assume that Willow was better. Tara herself was not hurt again by Willow directly, but her memory was. Ultimately, while I sympathize with Tara, I think she made the wrong decision in going back to Willow, because Willow had not really dealt with her core personality problems. She had stopped her overuse of magic, but that was just one manifestation of deeper problems, and her retreat to magic, revenge, cruelty, and attempts to control the world upon losing Tara demonstrate that. I have no doubt that the two loved each other, and I quite like the couple's story...but it's again, a couple that is very, very far from perfect, and (honestly) abusive.
I have a problem with describing the Willow/Tara relationship as one that didn't fail. Because it did in fact fail. That's why they broke up. Willow failed and violated Tara's mind, her sense of self, her identity. It was an act of abusive control. Willow became the controlling, abusive spouse who dominates their partner. What's more disheartening is that this issue of controlling a partner is never directly addressed, but transmuted into the failed metaphor of "magic addiction". The problem with Willow wasn't magic, but her need for control. Tara returns to Willow because Willow's been keeping her "magic addiction" in control and has been clean for ages. But the problem of Willow controlling the lives of those around her wasn't addressed properly.

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-03-23 03:11 ]
What's more disheartening is that this issue of controlling a partner is never directly addressed, but transmuted into the failed metaphor of "magic addiction". The problem with Willow wasn't magic, but her need for control.

Emmie, in my opinion you are right as rain. The magic addiction metaphor was, to me, simply a cop-out. And it was one of the primary reasons I found season six to be a misfire.
EW Buffy & Giles, SERIOUSLY. Father figures should never EVER be looked at as a maybe-down-the-road-love-affair SERIOUSLY, gross.

But I kinda don't like these types of things because I don't like when people over analyse things. The author could write a book about what the meaning of Buffy is but really, Joss Whedon and writers are the only ones who know that. You could have a hunch or an idea, but you can't outright say, THIS IS WHAT BUFFY WAS ABOUT or THIS WAS THE MEANING OF THE SHOW. Idk, thats just me.

But I did read this one, which is big for me. My boyfriend read some book all about Buffy and the meanings of things and some of the things they put together were OUTRAGEOUS, totally reaching. And no, I didn't end up reading it.
I tend to agree--Willow erasing Tara's memory was one of the worst things anyone on the show did to a romantic partner. And it's just the culmination of a long pattern of Willow turning instantly to magic whenever anything goes wrong, refusing to actually deal with her problems. (See, for instance, "Something Blue"--the article mentions Willow inadvertently cursing her friends, but fails to acknowledge what led to her cursing them: an attempt to use magic to bend the world to her will, so she wouldn't have to face real life. The unhealthy behavior was there long before S6.)

I would add that, IMHO, the Willow/Tara relationship didn't have the healthiest beginning, either. Tara was extremely dependent on Willow in S4 and early S5, to the point of seeming not to have other friends or a life of her own (in marked contrast to Riley).

So I really don't buy the argument that their relationship is the most successful in the show--much less that it's the show's ultimate meaning. Though FWIW I love both characters, and their relationship (like all BTVS relationships) has some truly beautiful moments.
PS - I think the worst thing with relationships on the show was spike's attempted RAPE on Buffy, which everyone seems to forget about and I bet most "SPUFFY" fans refuse even happened. That was so scary and such a REAL thing, more frightening then using powers to wipe a memory, it's something people go through in real life. It was all too real and I'll never forget it. (Plus the fact that it was all forgiven bugs me :/ )
Emmie: while I agree entirely that the mindwipe itself wasn't sufficiently addressed, I think the final trio of episodes brought the focus back to Willow's need to control the world and her friends. Xander won't drive so she controls the pedal to the car instead; the world would be a better place without Warren and his gang (and Rack); Dawn would be happier as a key; the world would be better off dead; Buffy should go out fighting. I do wish the mindwipe was discussed, but I understand that her crimes against the gang and the world were seen as more dire (if less a personal violation!), and Willow did own up to them.

Anyway, the magic addiction--I agree, a bad idea on the writers' part. Though I'm coming around to the interpretation that it really was a deliberate misdirect meant to show us another side of Willow's avoidance of real emotional work: once again, rather than questioning her own motivations or her own essential goodness, she goes for a shortcut--here, stopping to use magic. The rest of the Scoobies and even Tara (who herself never uses the addiction word itself) go along with it, because they either don't want to see Willow as less than decent, or don't want to deal with her actual problem, or, in most cases, both.

It's rather like Xander/Anya (e.g.) in that way, where the season seems to present their wedding as a good thing during the runup, but in "Hell's Bells" and its aftermath gives reasons why the simple model (X/A should get married and work through their jitters!) is wrong/insufficient, because the couple's real problems (Xander's anger and abusive tendencies, his still having Buffy on a pedestal, Anya's demon past, her lack of identity) had been completely glossed over in favour of the quick fix of...well, ignoring them and Xander eating a lot. Of course both plotlines are somewhat muddied in execution. I still love all the characters' arcs in season six overall, much as I wish sometimes for more clarity. :)

ETA: Here and here are some great discussions of "Wrecked" and the addiction arc--check out especially Arbitrar of Quality and One Bit Shy. You may not be convinced, but I think it helps explain a way for the addiction metaphor to fit in with Willow's arc without losing much.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2010-03-23 05:03 ]
I think the worst thing with relationships on the show was spike's attempted RAPE on Buffy, which everyone seems to forget about .....
Plus the fact that it was all forgiven bugs me :/ )
sasburgerr | March 23, 04:40 CET

There is a limit to how far I can go with this, but I'll say that what most B/A shippers tend to "forget" is that this occurred before Spike had a soul. And that if you're going to judge the character or the incident on that basis, then you need to judge Angel for every act that Angeles committed.

Using any kind of logic, you really can't apply one standard to one character, and a different standard to the other. As terrible as attempted rape is, no sane person would say that it's worse than attempted murder. Or than the countless actual murders that both both Angel and Spike were forgiven for, because they were committed when neither had a soul.
Maybe this won't be a popular opinion here (yell at me if you want to) but Willow's memory erasure of Tara was *worse* than Spike's attempted rape of Buffy. Spike *failed*. Willow *succeeded*. And by *fixing* their relationship (even temporarily), Willow essentially raped Tara. Worse, she did it knowing what Tara had already gone through with Glory.

So forgive me if I don't find Willow's "recovery" in Season 7 to be complete. Sure, to her "magic addiction," but because Tara died, we never get to see Willow come to grips with what she actually did to Tara. Willow was always the one with power in the relationship. It was always destructive, and so far in the narrative, we've never seen her actually deal with it.

The idea that somehow Willow's behavior was acceptable because the two were somehow meant to be together or truly in love doesn't justify it. To me, it's merely wishful thinking. If there was any real mistake in the series, it was having Willow do this thing. It was easily the most purely evil and selfish thing anyone did in the show. I get the point of having sweet, kind Willow be the one to do it, but I think it was a step too far.
If there was any real mistake in the series, it was having Willow do this thing.

I thought, from season six onwards, that Willow and Tara were mishandled badly, both separately and as a couple. I think Tara's reconciliation with Willow was shallow and unearned; Tara basically just sort of missed being with Willow as far as her dialogue would have us believe, and was willing to forgive her for that reason alone. So what if Willow had invaded her mind and erased her memory (twice!)

One significant reason for Buffy's greatness: when it failed, it failed by pushing things too far, not by being too craven to take a chance. Unfortunately Willow's mind-rape of Tara was too far. I like the idea of Willow wanting to control things and take shortcuts to do it because it seems a logical progression of her character, but I thought "magic addiction" was trite and too easy an explanation, and I also thought that her erasing Tara's memories stretched credulity even for someone who wants to control everything around her. Especially after what Glory did, I just don't think Willow would do something like that to Tara. I think a better way to explore this tendency in Willow would have been for her to try to do this to a bad guy. For instance--what if she attempted to wipe Spike's memory and control his mind through some sort of magc in order to render him less of a threat? That could have led to some interesting conflicts. But, doing it to Tara, the girl she loved? I just never believed it.
For what it's worth, I love S6 precisely because it takes all of our "heroes" to their darkest moments, shows that they're human and can fail abysmally, and, mostly, because it does the most interesting things with gender relations that I've ever seen on TV.

I think one of the overarching themes (intended or not, I don't care: the author is dead) of S6 is exploring the horrible things people do to each other in the name of "love." Plus, again: there's so much gender stuff to unpack here; I could write a book.

So you have one half of the lesbian couple essentially date-rape her partner (the memory spell reads purely as a date-rape-drug metaphor for me), which troubles the idea of rape being something that only a man can do to a woman (not to deny that it overwhelming does play out that way and should be viewed mainly within the context of the patriarchy, but taking it out of that male-female context in this specific situation makes for some really interesting interactions); you have the inversion of the male-female dynamic with the woman being the one who is using the man for sex, while the man desperately wants it to be about emotion (their tendency to upend the gender dynamic completely is my favorite thing about Buffy and Spike, and that doesn't stop when it tries to reassert itself in "Seeing Red"); you have the most heteronormative couple unable to talk about their own doubts with each other and so the man's fear of commitment ends with heartbreak for the woman...and is then complicated again by Anya's decision to become a vengenance demon again (I hatehatehate the cliche moment of someone getting left at the altar, but the idea of them breaking apart is an interesting one. Still, I think it would have been gustier and better writing to show Xander and Anya actually getting married and then dealing with things that way--no one can tell me that Wash and Zoe or Coach and Mrs. Coach on Friday Night Lights are boring).

My main complaint is that in the case of Willow and Tara (and to a much lesser extent, Buffy and Spike, though I think the soul covered a lot of this ground), the writers didn't really examine the implications of the darkness they embraced. Are we supposed to think that Tara did the right thing going back to Willow? I personally think Joss just wanted Tara's death to be a bigger shock, and his way of accomplishing that seems to be to let someone be happy for five minutes and then completely destroy them (which is a trope I'm getting sick of, frankly).

Hellmouthguy: But, doing it to Tara, the girl she loved? I just never believed it.

I did. To me, if she'd done it to anyone else, it wouldn't have nearly as much of an impact. It had to be Tara, just as it had to be Dawn that Buffy died for in S5, to accomplish the point. If Buffy had died for any of her other friends (or her mom), it would have undermined the beautiful adoption metaphor and the fact that S5 is about choosing to love, even when it's difficult. If Tara had wiped Spike's mind, that isn't dark enough, it doesn't show her hitting rock bottom, which is what the season is about. They were pushing it as far as it could go. There would have been all kinds of people justifying her decision if it had been Spike (just like there are all kinds of people justifying Twilight's decisions right now); with Tara, you can't deny that it's a terrible, terrible thing. And if it hadn't been Tara, I don't know that I would have believed her going Dark!Willow in the end--I would have been wondering how she reached that place.

That said, I don't like the addiction metaphor either. It failed.

Also, thank you, Shey, for fielding that one. ;)

[ edited by Lirazel on 2010-03-23 16:50 ]
To me, if she'd done it to anyone else, it wouldn't have nearly as much of an impact.

I agree about the impact, but nevertheless it just didn't seem at all in character for Willow to do that. I just don't see Willow as a rapist and I think this is yet another example of Joss yanking characters around to accomplish his ends while not giving thought to what the characters want to do. (One bright side to the whole Dark Willow fiasco for me though: it led me to have to really be creative in coming up with my own take on why she would be capable of doing something like that to someone in my fanfic.) Willow as a date-rapist strikes me as just as much of a looney contrivance as Boyd suddenly being the head of Rossum. What on Earth was Willow's self-justification for doing this to Tara? She wanted to avoid an argument so she violates her girlfriend's mind? That's like burning your house down because you saw a mouse. It's a gigantic overreaction on Willow's part and it makes no sense to me when trying to reconcile it with the person Willow had been for the previous five seasons. I think season six failed specifically because it too often went for the big dramatic impact over sound character work and Dark Willow is the poster-child for that. Even worse, they copped out in the end and blamed it on "dark magic" instead of at least calling it what it was.
I don't know about that. I think it's been pretty clear from...S3 ("Lovers Walk") that Willow's issue is control (of the social dynamic of the Scoobies--she hateshateshates disharmony, which is what she would view her argument with Tara). And that's what rape is about--not sex, but control, power. I am confident she didn't even see it as rape at all (as most rapist don't--there've been all kinds of studies that show that if you leave out the word "rape" but describe behaviors, people are willing to admit they behave in these ways...but completely deny it when the word "rape" is involved), and I think if someone had suggested such a thing to her, she'd be horrified. She merely thought, "Tara's mad at me. This is not okay. How can I fix this?" And since her reaction to pretty much everything for the last little while is, "With magic," I find it perfectly in character.

But then, since you hate S6 and I love it, we might just have to agree that our views of her are completely different and that what works for me won't work for you and vice versa. :) I've appreciated your opinions lately on various subjects, even when I couldn't more violently disagree with you (which is most of the time, honestly). You always have reasoning behind your opinions, even when I disagree with them.

I think you'd be very interested to read this meta. It's really insightful into what makes Willow tick.
I've appreciated your opinions lately on various subjects, even when I couldn't more violently disagree with you (which is most of the time, honestly).

And I appreciate your opinions as well. I love discussing and dissecting this show; it provides endless fodder for debate. There's nothing wrong with intelligent criticism of a work of art (which BtVS certainly is regardless of the relative merits of indiviual seasons) as long as the tone is kept civil, and I greatly enjoy hearing and debating opinions that are diametrically opposed to mine as long as they're backed up with reasoned argument.

I think a lot of the love/hate of season six out there simply comes down to Spike. Either people can't get enough of him or they want substantially less; count me in the latter camp. For me he was a symptom of what was wrong with the show in season six, but he also represented a burgeoning problem in and of himself, as the writers scrambled to turn this perfectly wonderful villain who succeeded marvelously as an occasional guest-star into a member of the gang who always needed a new contrived reason (chip, soul, pawn of the First, in love with Buffy) to even be there. By the end I thought the show's main characters were gasping for air as Spike sucked all the oxygen out of the room to make yet another speech about how cool he was, and the writers shunted everyone else aside to make room for Spike backstory, Spike subplots, Spike redemption quests, etc. while seeming utterly oblivious to the fact that Spike was a guy who was in fact the antithesis of the point they had been trying to make for years: the show was once about geek empowerment, and the fact that a shy computer nerd like Willow and a goofy comic book collecting geek like Xander could help save the world, and a pretty girl like Buffy, a cheerleader who on the surface looked like she belonged with Cordelia's crowd, would actually choose to hang wth Willow and Xander instead. Spike was the asshole cool guy who pushes kids like Willow and Xander around, and now he's being celebrated, while Tara, the new shy girl, is being pushed around by, of all people, Willow. By season seven the new geek boy was Andrew, an object of ridicule instead of praise, and the show had finally succeeded in actually inverting itself. Now I agree that Spike is far more interesting, and presents far more storytelling possibilities, than, say, Xander, especially by season seven. I also agree that James Marsters was one of the most talented and versatile members of the cast. But if the writers thought that too they should've written Xander--or whoever they were bored with, as they were quite evidently bored with a few characters who were given nothing to do toward the end--out of the show rather than just let him hang around while all his lines went to Andrew. Insead it was a case of "this show just ain't big enough for the lot of us" and Spike elbowed everybody aside, right up to the very end, in which even Buffy's final battle had to of course end up being all about him: his final sacrifice to stop the uber-vamps was his final "look how cool I am" speech.
Wow. And see, there's the entire reason I said "violently disagree." ;)

My view of Spike is as diametrically opposed to yours as it's possible to get.

To me, Spike is the biggest loser on the show. The entire point of Spike for me is that that "coolness" you're talking about? Is all an act, and that he's painfully, painfully, painfully aware at all times that if you strip away Nikki's jacket and the peroxide and the scar, he's still William, sitting in that Victorian drawing room, getting rejected. Spike is the ultimate outsider on a show about outsiders. He's not cool, he knows it, and one of the things I love about the Scoobies is that they know it, too (they see right through him, and it's fantastic). Yes, he's a giant loser who somehow, sometimes manages to convince others (and himself) that he is, in fact, a badass. Even rarer (but more awesome) are the times when he really is a badass and exudes it for all to see.

This is the point of "Fool for Love," but if you go back to the earlier seasons, you'll see that those clues were there all along. He's a whipped boyfriend (I hate that phrase, but that's how our society would phrase it) who gets beat up by the Slayer's mom, makes a deal with his worst enemy to save his own skin, takes off like a coward, comes back drunk and sniveling, and then gets emasculated by the Initiative. Loooo-ser.

I will agree with you that the writers did force him where he didn't necessarily fit in S4: he's got some fun stuff going on, but it doesn't quite work because they don't take they chip seriously; they treat him as comedic relief. It doesn't entirely work, and I don't blame you at all for feeling that it was forced. (On the DVDs, James Marsters straight-up says, "They tried to make me Cordelia, and it didn't work.")

But I've always been confused by the idea that character development is a bad thing, that a character should stay static and not develop. I mean, Lilah Morgan (my personal fav on Angel) is a villain but becomes incredibly complex. If they'd tried to redeem her, I wouldn't have complained; I would have thought it was fantastic (they sort of did the same thing with Darla, who I also love).

I'm also really confused by the idea that they had to come up with stuff for him to do. That's what they have to do with every character. Again, I agree that the chip didn't work well in S4, and I'm not so crazy about the pawn of the First in S7, but other than that, I think it all works really, really well.

When I was watching OOMM for the first time and Spike has the whole "I love you" dream, I went: "DUH!" And smacked my forehead. Because of course Spike's in love with Buffy. Of course he is. It made perfect sense to me. So I didn't see that as grasping for straws at all. It fit perfectly into my view of who he is, that he would fall in love with this strong, smart, fierce woman who is so far "above him." That's what he does. He needs someone to latch onto in that way.

I also disagree about S7, a season that has so many ridiculous weaknesses (but that I love since I love the characterizations of Buffy and Spike and Dawn and Anya). Why is it Spike's fault if the writers had run out of things to do with Xander by that time (I can think of a number of things they could have done with him, but they never asked me) but still had things to say about Spike? I think if you go back and watch the season, you'll see that Spike actually doesn't take over the show: he doesn't have more scenes than anyone else; his writing is just better.

his final sacrifice to stop the uber-vamps was his final "look how cool I am" speech. And again, I disagree: to me it's: "Look how far I've come." With Spike, the important word is "Real." Very little that he has or is is actually real. So that's why "Intervention" is so important; that's why the soul is so important; that's why "Chosen" is so important: because finally, finally he's found something that's real and his. After searching for it since he was alive. He thought it was what Drusilla offered him in the stable in 1880, but that wasn't it. "Chosen" was it. There's a reason that he's (literally) "effulgent" in that scene. ;)

I do have to admit that I identify with him completely. My friends crack up because I'll say, "I am Spike." Buffy's my favorite character (I'm as in love with her as Spike is, though in a totally straight way, of course ;) ), but Spike's the one I always, always understand (except for some of S4).

[ edited by Lirazel on 2010-03-23 19:50 ]
Oh, so much word, Lirazel. Spike is the ultimate loser trying to be cool and sometimes actually managing to convince people and even rarer than that, actually being badass. How many scenes are there of him being emasculated or beat up or tossed off buildings or his plans failing horribly? There's actually a Youtube clip out there that shows how many times Spike gets hit in the show (not just where he's fighting back, but just beat up on)--it's kinda hilariously sad.

I think if you go back and watch the season, you'll see that Spike actually doesn't take over the show: he doesn't have more scenes than anyone else; his writing is just better.

Yes. THIS. He doesn't have more, his writing is just better.

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-03-23 20:55 ]
I pretty much agree with Lirazel, especially that Willow's issues were heavily built up to, starting with the delusting spell in season three. While I have issues (some of them big) with the execution of Willow's season six plotline, I never see her as out of character, including the Dark Willow episodes where it seems clear to me she's always her.

Partly what it comes down to is my view of the character, which is that she doesn't have a very strong sense of ethics, even though she really wants good results; what we see as her being highly moral and ethical in earlier seasons is primarily her deferring to others' judgment and not wanting to upset them. The delusting spell is an early indication that if Willow could get a good result without "good" means, she would do it without hesitation--because I don't think Willow's quite internalized the idea that her actions themselves can be wrong. So in season six, she resurrects Buffy using very dark magic and lies to the others about some of the details, because the goal (Buffy alive!) is worth it. She is willing to put people in another dimension in order to look for Dawn at the Bronze, because the effect is that Dawn would be found and surely, since she won't screw up, no one else would be hurt. She mindrapes Tara because, to her, both Tara and her will be happier after what she does, so why not do it?

In the Dark Willow episodes, she has mostly given up on the world--what's the point of living, of being good, in a world where there is no Tara?--but you can still see her attitude present quite a bit: wouldn't the world be a better place if "a waste" like Warren were dead? Maybe Dawn really would be happier back as a Key, and maybe Buffy really would be happier back in the grave. And maybe the world really would be better off if she ended it. This is of course all filtered through Willow's grief and rage (and her accessing magic that feeds into them), not to mention her own not-insignificant death wish and, importantly, her desire to obliterate herself. The last one is important, because she is stopped when Xander gets to her and tells her that she hasn't succeeded in destroying herself--that she really is still Willow, with all the pain and joys that this implies.

And I see her season six actions as rumbling below the surface in all previous years, just to a much lesser degree. "Something Blue" runs through most of Willow's behaviour in the dark Willow episodes in miniature: she is cruel to Xander, Giles, and others when they don't understand her pain, she wishes she had had the guts to do a revenge spell on Veruca, SHE EXPLICITLY SAYS, "If I were any kind of witch I could make Oz stay with me," she drinks (presaging the addiction aspect), she does a spell to try to make her will be done so that she can control her emotional state so it's better.

ETA: Incidentally, there actually are season six fans who don't like Spike. I'm not one of them--I think he is a good character with a strong arc--but, e.g., lj user coffeeandink has lovely posts primarily positive about S6, without actually liking Spike as a character.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2010-03-23 21:03 ]
Hilariously sad is just the right word, Emmie. I know he isn't human, so you can't judge him on just the same standards...but sometimes the casual abuse he undergoes makes me wince.

I don't know that I'd take it as far you, WilliamTheB, and say that her moral compass isn't developed. I'd just say that she has different priorities, that she even prioritizes different morals (and not ones I generally agree with), and she has a more Machiavellian worldview than Buffy does (though sometimes Buffy does stumble into one as well; all the Scoobies do).

But generally, I agree that it works within her characterization without me thinking that the writers always made the right decisions.
Well, I can see "different priorities" as well. Mainly, I think it's significant that Willow sees herself as a good person, and ergo someone whose actions are good--I don't think she is forced to take a long look at herself until she nearly ends the world.
Oh, I can agree with that. She operates on the assumption that she is good and so her actions must be. But that isn't the case, and you're right: she doesn't have to deal with that until she tries to end the world. Great point.
I wrote a short fic once where Willow got shot dead by Warren and we got Dark Tara as a result. No one was close enough to her to save the world.
That's interesting, Simon. I have a hard time imagining Tara going dark as a result of Willow dying--I see all the seeds planted in Willow's character, but not Tara.

If it were Dark Tara, though, I'd vote Dawn go after her. :)
While not withdrawing anything I said above, I agree that what was said about Willow and about Tara since are all very strong and valid points.

Tara in "Entopy" and Oz in "amneds" both returned before Willow ahd shown real rpogress; Willow herself is a drug as well as an addictive person. And I have to agree (and wonder why I never saw it myself) about Willow's lack of a fundamental ethic. Jonathan ahd the same problem in a different way.

As to The Attempt by Spike; yes, pre-soul. And, like the killings, and like Angel/Angelus, I'm the type who forgives crimes mroe easily than i do misdemeanors. So i still hold the abuse Spike dished out to Harmony and Buffy (which they acccepted) against him.

Simon, WilliamtheB; DarkTara is an interesting "Earth-3" type of reversal, but I also can't see it. Nor can I see her interferign with Buffy's surgery. I can see her kept out of the funeral planning by Ira and Sheila, going crazy in the waiting room after Buffy's operation, and taking off after Warren to keep her own sanity. But I can't see ehr deliberately killing him, or anyone else. Of course if he pulled a weapon on her and due to his nervousness he was holding it backwards....
I'm the type who forgives crimes mroe easily than i do misdemeanors. So i still hold the abuse Spike dished out to Harmony and Buffy (which they acccepted) against him.

I'm very confused by this statement on several levels. Are you saying you forgive murder more easily than, say, shoplifting? That you'd forgive Warren for killing Katrina and Tara but not Dawn for stealing jewelry? There seems something about that.

Also, are you saying that (attempted) rape is a misdemeanor and therefore harder to forgive? I'm struggling to wrap my mind around what it is you're trying to communicate.

[eta] Unless you're saying you can forgive a crime of passion more easily than you can systemic behavior. Which...okay, I can deal with that. Except that the murders that the vampires committed over decades or centuries were entrenched behavior. This wasn't Willow killing Warren while she's made with grief (something that's still inexcusable, though you might find it understandable). Anything either Spike or Angel(us) did without a soul was part of larger behavior, never a crime of passion.

I am so confused. I've wrapped my mind up in knots trying to decipher this.

[ edited by Lirazel on 2010-03-24 02:18 ]
I... do not understand. Also.
Also, thank you, Shey, for fielding that one. ;)
Lirazel | March 23, 16:45 CET

My pleasure. :) I've fielded that one every time it comes up in discussion and I will continue to do so.

Great comment, and your next one is even better. Spike is my favorite character on any TV show, ever. Because his journey was so multi-layered and twisty-turney, but it never failed to make perfect sense, as it unfolded. Flashbacks, from Fool for Love through Lies My Parents Told Me, create a foundation for the character that plays out to perfection. I've also commented many times on the fact that Spike was the ultimate outsider in a show about outsiders, another reason I find the character so fascinating.
I think that any perception of Spike "taking over" the show, is simply because his character arc is so compelling, and James Marsters is both an amazing actor and a natural scene stealer, with enough charisma to light up a small city.

As for Willow, I agree that she absolutely would have done the mind-wipe to Tara. Willow's character is another gem of development, start to finish. In such a short time, she went from the nerdy girl that everyone overlooked and undervalued, to possibly the most powerful witch on the planet. She'd worked so hard all her life to be the best at everything she did, and been mostly taken for granted.
All of a sudden she can have anything she wants, with very little effort, and impress the hell out of everyone, in the bargain. Now they have no choice but to notice her, and even be a bit intimidated. This really is like a drug to Willow (clumsy handling of the metaphor aside).
At the end of Tabula Rasa, she is genuinely shocked that Tara is leaving her, and obviously doesn't grasp the gravity of what she's done.
As uneven as season 7 was, I loved Willow's arc. When she finally did come to grips with the enormity of her misuse of power, it took a very long time for her to trust herself to use that power again, in full.

What a gift Joss and Co. have given us all. Here we are all these years after BtS ended, still discussing and dissecting this stuff. :_)
Lizrael Emmie; Well, I admit there's something off about me, too, and I'm only 75% kidding.
I think it's because people are known to notice big things and truly repent. But the small stuff, cuttign page from a enwspaper at the library or not 9guys only here) putting the seat up pre-micturation, people do that and don't realize there's anythign wrong with them. So, I forgive SPike's murders once he gets his soul, but I don't forgive his abusivenes and kinkiness. That's how I am.
Very interesting discussion that's going on in this thread. I admire the way all of you have been civil in this conversation; that's something I've rarely seen when season 6 gets brought up.

I've read all the comments and must say that I completely agree with what Lirazel has been saying. I'll go even further and say that Willow was, at the very least, verbally abusing Tara before the first mind-wipe. So Willow's use of magic as a means to control Tara was not seen as out-of-character by me.

And here's something no one else may have thought of in relation to Tara/Willow: the fact is that abuse victims are prone to forgive their abusers; it's a vicious cycle that often ends in the death of the abused.
I think it's because people are known to notice big things and truly repent.

I can agree that hitting rock bottom (as Willow did when she tried to destroy the world; as Spike did in "Seeing Red") can prompt you to a big act of repentance. Absolutely.

But the idea that people can never overcome their smaller vices is a sad one. My little sister and I were pretty consistently awful to each other for a while. We've since gotten over it and forgiven each other for all those little things we did. We needed to mature and grow up and move past that behavior. Spike in S7 seems to me to have matured and grown up and gotten past that behavior as well.

So, just to clarify, do you forgive Buffy for the way she treated Spike in S6? He was awful to her, but she was equally awful to him (note: I'm not saying in any way, shape, or form that she deserved "Seeing Red." That was straight-up evil, and she was the victim) as well.

What about Xander making it clear that Anya humiliated him? What about Cordy mocking Willow? What about the times when Giles failed Buffy? What about Riley beating up on Spike when he couldn't fight back? Do you forgive them, or is it just Spike you hold accountable?

I just don't understand why you wouldn't forgive Spike being a jerk (which he totally can be, admittedly), when literally every other character on the show was a jerk at times, too, and he, at least, had the excuse of having no soul.
Menomegirl, I agree that it's perfectly realistic for Tara to go back to Willow after being abused. In addition to what I said before about Willow's lack of fundamental ethics, etc, I feel like date rape (essentially what Willow does) and generally abusive relationships are a very big problem, and something that is NOT exclusive to "bad people." People, especially when they aren't called on it, have a great capacity for self-deception, and many people who see themselves as good and in fact ARE good in MOST ways, do utterly terrible things.

Interestingly, there is one element of the Tara/Willow relationship often forgotten, which is that the first person to cast a spell on the other to deceive them was not Willow, but Tara, in "Family," casting a spell on Willow and the rest of the Scoobies which nearly got them killed. I don't see it as comparable for various reasons, but I think it makes the point that the precedent was there for Willow to think that casting a spell was forgivable.

There actually are...subtextual hints that Willow has responsibility for Tara's death: Warren is a dark mirror for Willow, as he is also a former nerd bullied in high school jockeying for power, who abuses his (in his case former) girlfriend by wiping her mind, and has a particular obsession with Buffy. Warren is in some sense Willow without her good qualities--without her compassion, ability to love deeply, concern for others' well-being. When Willow tortures Warren, she brings up his abuse of his girlfriend, and I don't think it's a coincidence. I do wish that this had been played up more, and while I do like "The Killer in Me," I think they should have pushed the Willow/Warren parallels further to point out that Willow did abuse Tara in a very Warren-like manner.

(I had actually assumed originally that this was the reason for bringing Warren back in season eight--to explore Willow's darkside, both with Warren as a mirror and with Warren as a symbol of her evil and wrath.)

Additionally, I see the final episodes of S6 this way: Willow didn't kill Tara. She isn't responsible. But she squandered the time they could have had together; and her actions after Tara's death proved that she wasn't ready. She betrayed everything Tara stood for, and that's a betrayal that's as serious as the forgetting spell, though perhaps more clearly relatable.

And I'll defer to Lirazel and Shey on Spike, because they stated it more eloquently than I could.
Interestingly, there is one element of the Tara/Willow relationship often forgotten, which is that the first person to cast a spell on the other to deceive them was not Willow, but Tara, in "Family," casting a spell on Willow and the rest of the Scoobies which nearly got them killed. I don't see it as comparable for various reasons, but I think it makes the point that the precedent was there for Willow to think that casting a spell was forgivable.

I must admit, I never related the two events as comparable but you make a good point. Also, very good points about Warren as well.
Thanks muchly!

"Family" is a Joss ep too, so I wouldn't put it past him to slip in the kind of inverted foreshadowing.

Off topic, but: "Family" also presages Buffy's "coming back wrong" in a way, with Tara's family trying to convince her that she's part demon, and then she is full of joy when she discovers she's all human. Spike's punching Tara proves that she's human; Spike's punching Buffy proves that she came back wrong. And it's Tara that proves to Buffy that she's human after all. But whereas Tara is overjoyed, Buffy is devastated. There's some great stuff in "Family" (even if its surface story is kind of preachy).

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2010-03-25 06:46 ]
Lizrael : No, I haven't forgiven all of them. S-5 Riley I didn't ever actually disagree with. But I don't like Buffy or Xander anymore and haven't for awhile.

An d yes I know people can realize things and change. Or relaize things and try ahrd and fail honestly. But those aren't the kinds of people I've ever been lucky enough to be around. Plus so many hide behind anonymity
Wow. That makes my heart hurt for you, that you have such a dim view of humanity. I hope it's just because of your experiences and that you'll meet better people in the future and have a chance to change your mind. I mean, people are capable of being totally awful, but they're also pretty great sometimes, too.
Lets not forget that these characters inhabited a lager than life, basically mythological world. They were not ordinary people facing ordinary problems, despite the veneer of and cross-overs with "ordinary life" issues (which IMO made BtS so special).

These people were heroes, in the tradition of Greek Tragedy. Which puts forgiveness of transgressions, large or small, into a totaly different context. And morphs the concept of forgiveness into one of atonement and redemption.
If there was ever a subtext to bring your own of :), that's the big one. Not even sure the "sub" is necessary.
Exactly. If we think about it on a literal level, every single one of them should be in jail. You can't judge them by normal human standards; you can only judge them within the context of their own universe.
Well, not all of them would be in jail. Some of them are dead.

DaddyCatALSO, it's perfectly fine to dislike some of the characters. But I do tend to agree with Shey and Lirazel (surprise, surprise?). Which is why I'm more inclined to forgive Willow, Spike, Buffy, Xander, etc. their transgressions, even their more personal ones. And they get to atone in proportion to their failures. Most people don't have quite the opportunities to screw up on the level that they do, or the responsibilities and pressures.
As far as our forgiveness of the characters' transgressions go, I think, in my case, and also for many fans, a lot of that has to do with our preferences for various characters if we're being completely honest. We all have Buffyverse characters we love and characters we don't, and it's natural to empathize with our favorites no matter what transgressions they commit, the way we would stick up for a friend, and perhaps even to attempt to rationalize some of those transgressions away (rightly or wrongly) as "out of character". I've always been a fan of Willow; it's a combination of the character as written in the early seasons and, especially, Alyson's performance that hooked me on her. And while I see the metaphor the writers were going for with her invasion of Tara's mind (not once but twice), I can forgive her for it, and also believe it was out of character, partly because I just happen to like her so she gets the benefit of the doubt for me. Xander, on the other hand, can hardly do anything right as far as I'm concerned because I simply never cared for him; he's grated on my nerves from the very first episode, I never find him funny but merely tedious, and in most scenes I find myself wishing for the love of God someone would tell him to shut the hell up.

Spike's an interesting case for me. Unlike Xander, I do like Spike; both the character (before the chip) and the actor, in fact I think James Marsters was easily among the most talented members of the entire Buffyverse ensemble. Yet I've always seen him as a villain and have never accepted his conversion to the good guys side. I like him, I find him entertaining, but I'm never willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Yet, Angel, who is a character who has done many more despicable things than Spike, and who is portrayed by an actor who in my opinion doesn't have anywhere near the talent of Marsters, always gets the benefit of the doubt from me; I always have seen him as one of the good guys, which is part of the reason this Twilight stuff annoys me so much. (But only part of the reason; I'm not completely unobjective here and I still say that Twilight, for various reasons--starting with the fact that Angel simply could have come to Buffy from the beginning and told her what was going on--makes precious little sense and smacks of Stunt Writing.) So, why this drastic difference in my perceptions of Spike and Angel? Not sure. maybe it's as simple as first impressions; I was introduced to Angel as a tortured, brooding good guy and Spike as a vain, yappy bad guy. And I think a significant part of it is that, though I've always found Spike entertaining, I still think, basically, that he's (the character, obviously, not the actor) a snotty, preening asshole who likes nothing better than to hear himself talk. I love watching him but I would never want to hang with him, in fact I'd quite like to smack him. And that's it right there, I guess: we all have our preferences.

And a quick word about the "he didn't have a soul" argument that always gets dredged up when discussing Angel and Spike's various dastardly deeds; as far as the rules of Whedon's universe go, that argument is of course right on the money. But it has always struck me as a dramatic cheat, and looking over both series in retrospect now, I wish the whole "vampires don't have souls, that's why they're evil" concept had never been invented. It's simply too cut and dried, and people are too complicated for that.
Hellmoutguy: I see your agrument but making a vampire a dead body aniamted by an alien creature without the "essential" conenction of sharing the previosu woner's soul makes it easier to kill them.

Lizrael: Hey, stranger things have happened, althpo hoping for anew fmaily at 54 is abit of a stretch for me. But thansk for the good wishes.

WilliamtheB: Losign my old lvoe for the characters is bound up, for me, with my permanent state of miff at Joss himself. Heck, Harmony's reality show took her away from me too, so I'm left with Faith, Riley, and Lorne at this point :-).
And the fact is, I can't hate them that much or I wouldn't still be buying the comics and participating in these discussions. Thing is, forgiving, even forgiving and forgetting, doesn't always yield personal liking again.
I love when I ever use terms like "spuffy" they assume I am a B/A. If I called someone a "Bangel" they would think I am a B/S, I was just pointing out a group that wouldn't have had maybe the same opinion on the subject due to their love of the certain character. I am not choosing sides, So it isn't about shipping.


I do think that the attempted rape was a big deal that was semi-brushed off, which is sad. And I do hold the things Angelus did, to him. why wouldn't I? I have said before, Angel and Spike are both just as bad as the next Mass-murdering Psycho. Soul or no soul. Plus, at the time Spike was trying to actually make things better, which made Spike pretty awesome, especially since he was without a soul! which is way more than Angel can say. He did have a chip that caused him to at least want to help - but did I mention no soul! - That is awesome. But come on, Even when Angel was Angelus he never tried to steal some, Sure he might kill some one, since he has no soul, but still, he doesn't try to rape Buffy. (Which, this has absolutely nothing to do with shipping, B/S or B/A. it is just what the fact was)

My whole entire point was about the fact of it being a horrible thing to do in any type of relationship, whether its a loving couple or a couple of people kicking butt together. But it had a REAL aspect to it; it wasn't magic put on someone, it was raw pain that tons of people have had to deal with and no one should have to ever have to but its in life, which is probably why it was in the show to begin with. If it was Angel that did it, I would be saying it about him, but it wasn't, it was Spike. The Spike who was helping Buffy but then got to a point where he couldn't control his urges. Real no soul spike would've killed her, this was something different. And out of any of the many scared Buffy faces, that was the worse for me.

That's the point I was making, from my opinion, that I think it was the worst in the show. And it wasn't even dramatized like willow and her magic problem. It was there and then it was gone, like it never happened, on the show and in some people's minds. I find that to be surprising.

I'm pretty sure that if the souless guy who tried to rape me went out and got himself a soul, I still wouldn't be okay with having any type of romantic relationship with him. Buffy obviously got over it and slept with him a bunch of times, but she reeally dig's souls.

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home